You founded a company, you raised some private equity, you now have a board of directors, and you may even have brought in a CEO to help commercialize your business. So now you have an employee role in the business – could be CEO, could be VP of Development, CFO, etc. This is the critical point in time where you need to build a team with which to execute optimally. And in order to do so, this is also the point where you must shed the founder mentality.
For teams to work optimally they must be established based upon skillset and the ability to work together, and each person’s skills must be respected to maximize the value offered. This means that as the founder, you have to suppress the desire to make all decisions and you must figure out how to create working relationships that cause the maximum value to be generated by each team member. I have watched founders hire the talent they desperately need to move the business forward and then ruin any chance of that relationship lasting by continually playing the founder card and not listening or constantly challenging the talent hired in ways that drive the talent away. In the end the founders simply say – “they were the wrong person.” Wrong person because they didn’t do things the founder’s way even though the founders had no or little applicable experience or skillset.
Founders tend to be commanders. “It is my company therefore we are going to do it my way” typifies the foundation of a dysfunctional culture. If you found a baseball team and insist on playing shortstop and setting the batting order even though you have never played baseball before – your team is going to lose no matter how good the talent you hire. The better players cannot perform well enough to make up for your lack of capabilities and the environment / culture will cause the best talent to look for other teams on which to play. Team owners that really want to win hire great coaches and top quality players and stay out of their way.
If you are going to work in the company you founded or co-founded, aside from the passion you need to check the founder status at the door and engage with the rest of the team (that you need to be successful) in a manner the maximizes their ability to execute as a team. If you are going to be the CEO, then you need to learn what it takes to be a quality CEO and not just assume you can be such because you are the founder. If you are the CFO – then you need to understand the role of CFO and respect the other leadership in your organization, etc.
If you are leading and do it poorly, the entire company suffers. If you have hired a CEO and now have a particular role and yet you constantly play the founder card and disrupt the CEO’s ability to lead – then you may find yourself an unemployed founder. And yes, unless you created protection otherwise, if you do not hold a controlling interest in your business, you can be terminated.